This is a phrase famously associated with police officers in certain high-profile cities in America but it’s also a phrase I associate with the job of landlord. It’s a pun first made to me by the landlord at my local down in Southampton mumble years ago. The pub was a tiny Victorian establishment with a 2-barrel brewery that was visible through a glass panel behind the bar, so you could drink your Sweet Sensation  and watch the next batch brewing. I was told “Our job is to serve drinks and protect peace of mind. The brewer sells beer: the landlord sells happiness.”
I am tired of being told I’m a leftie, which I’m really not; but I’m equally tired of the assumption that if I were, I must ‘hate Britain’. That’s very Yankee thinking; that any progressive view or compassionate view or inclusive view is anti-patriotic. I am very proud of Britain, and of England as well. I am a patriot, though not a nationalist; I love the heritage of ancient law and modern music, of megalithic religion and inquiring minds. Poets and dreamers, singers and craftsmen and strong, clever women. I love the roots of our culture in folk music and the peace of our ancient oak forests. I love the beer. I really do love the beer. So I like to do a bit for St. George’s Day. For me, that means organising a band if I can afford it, getting in a few St. George’s ales. It means celebrating the traditions of the English publican; conversation, cribbage and a good time had by all.
So imagine my surprise when I heard that back in my old manor there are pubs with a distinctly different attitude to St. George. I arrived in the area a few weeks after the murder of Stephen Lawrence, and was in Eltham the day 10,000 ANL members marched one way up a street which had the BNP coming the other. Welling Hall is just a few miles off and the Trax at Bexley is a well-known haunt for the skinheaded fuckwits. It seems obvious at first glance that this was a BNP celebratory riot. On the other hand, as the landlord’s son is keen to point out, it might be more complicated.
Now, I have no idea if Chavscum is reading this, and I doubt he is, but I think I can point to this incident as evidence in our on-going feud about the distinction between violent policing of football fans and violent policing of football hooligans. It turns out that according to the people on the ground, this was not a BNP riot. This was a football thug riot; started by Milwall fans, turned into a 40-lout barney in the carpark and then escalating into a full-on 300-strong street battle with improvised weaponry and a single, terrified Met patrol car in the middle of it.
I remember what the evening fight was like in the Rose and Crown on the Sidcup by-pass: I have quite a clear idea what this would have been. The barmaids would be desperately trying to get the kids out of harms way while dodging the flying ash-trays and screaming lager-louts with bike chains. After a couple of lads squared off in the yard, there would be mysterious arrivals every few moments, people who weren’t even in the bar when it kicked off. At the side, there’d be a couple of older men, just watching, no-one touching them or going near them. They’d have phones to their ears. Their right hands would rest nonchalantly in their jacket pockets. They would see everything, say nothing. And bizarrely, no-one else would have seen a thing. Never spotted ’em, guv. Never met ’em before. No idea who they were, guv. Honest. And by the time it was all over, they would have mysteriously disappeared.
* * *
The first thing that’s worth noting about the vigorous response from the BNP to the suggestion they were involved is this: the fight was not a racial attack. The warring twats were all white. This does imply that it probably wasn’t the BNP; and yes, the fight seems to have originated with a group of Milwall supporters who are known as the RA crew. It turns out that RA stands for ‘Racial Attack’.
Hmm. Now, if you’re a violent racist anywhere near Eltham you’re in the BNP. It’s what you do; either you’re with us, or you’re with the darkies. I’ve had men on the street phrase it to me in those terms; men armed with baseball bats. Milwall supporters have long been associated with extreme right-wing views, and with extreme violence. Many of the skinheads wear Chelsea’s blue but as many wear Milwall’s. So, this riot was from a known ‘firm’ of football thugs (firm; group who organise not to support football but to cause and enjoy violence under the excuse of football) called ‘Racial Attack’, outside (and inside) a BNP pub, just down the road from Welling Hall. No, the BNP clearly weren’t involved.
And let’s be frank, here; there’s no-one involved in this that can in any way be described as innocent. There’s no-one in this riot that isn’t culpable; all the victims were cowering inside and praying the police would come in force. What they got was one cop car, which was immediately pelted with missiles and driven away. Then what they got was 100 or more paramilitary TSG officers in full riot gear, who cleared the disturbance. Some notes of comparative interest, here: the local pubs locked their doors with legitimate customers inside, the police ‘set up cordons’ to contain the crowd but ‘the crowd dispersed when they realised they couldn’t get a drink locally’. That means that they were not kettled.
Well, now isn’t that interesting. This is what TSG are actually for: 300 armed extremists in a faction war, organised and fighting for over an hour, serious injuries being dealt with improvised weaponry, terrified women and children hiding behind locked doors. This is exactly what their ability to use superior organisation and equipment is for; enforcing an end to existing hostilities. And the tactic which works, now adequately proven in immediate context, is to ensure that you leave the crowd with an escape route so that they can disperse.
I applaud the officers who responded to this riot and who dealt with it in a practical and efficient manner. I applaud their leadership, who used proven common-sense tactics to end the incident as quickly as possible. Deny the thugs a target, confront them when they try to find one, make dispersal the path of least resistance. That’s what works. That’s what TSG are for. And, quite clearly, the Met know this.
But the thing I’m most glad about here is that the pub’s license has been suspended pending a review. No landlord who allows their pub to become associated with regular violence, football firms with names like ‘Racial Attack’ and extremist groups such as the BNP, deserves to be a part of the tradition I serve in. We have a legally enshrined duty that comes with the license: we’re responsible to and for our customers, for their safety, for their entertainment and for the quality of their beer. The landlord at the Trax should lose his license, because he failed in that duty. Britain is a land of ancient tradition and the publican is one of the oldest. We are honour-bound to our customers, to serve their beer and protect their peace of mind.
 The beer was named after a bomber that flew out of the area during WWII, whose crew(s) drank at the Hedgehog. It had a version of the plane’s pin-up nose art on the pump clip. Bass bought the pub, kicked out the owner occupier, ripped out the brewery and turned it into a student wine-bar type place, ending an independent brewing tradition over a century old. Stupid people, but rich ones.